Syracuse football’s opener against Louisville is now just a calendar week away. If you haven’t been riveted by today’s Week 0 college football matchups, don’t worry. The Orange and Cards are likely to light up the Dome with some offensive fireworks – unless our No. 4 player on the Fizz’ Top 10 players list has anything to say about it.
Redshirt-sophomore cornerback Garrett Williams is the second of two defensive backs to grace our list, and is the second half of a one-two punch tandem at corner along with sophomore Duce Chestnut. Williams’ third-year presence makes him a de facto elder statesman among his defensive backfield mates; his teammates are either youthful or inexperienced pieces filling vacated spots.
After a dynamic redshirt-freshman season in 2020, Williams took a slight statistical step back in ‘21. Last year’s campaign saw Williams’ tackle (64 to 52) and sack (1 to 0) numbers decrease, and the North Carolinian failed to haul in even a single interception in 10 games. However, that may be more by design than by chance – in year two facing ACC competition, head coaches around the Atlantic Coast decided they’d just stop throwing at Williams altogether. That zero in the pick column didn’t prevent Williams from logging in as an occasional selection as the conference’s best corner.
Why Syracuse Needs Him
In two seasons with Syracuse, Williams has been a bonafide All-Conference level talent. Even more impressive is the fact that he was one of the unlucky souls to step into a vacant defensive backfield following the departure of SU’s 2020 NFL-bound trio of Andre Cisco, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and Trill Williams. Those three are long gone, but Williams helped SU fans forget them a little more quickly.
With a second-year cornerback mate in Chestnut and big question marks at safety this season, Williams is the one being eyeballed for another big year. The quarterback talent in the ACC has generally done down following the drafting of Sam Howell (UNC) and Kenny Pickett (Pitt), so lower-level passers may be easy pickings for Williams to become more of a ball hawker and big play artist in ‘22.
On a more worrying note, Williams is surely going to be one of the last lines of defense against a suspect-looking Syracuse run defense. On paper, ‘Cuse’s four brand-new defensive line starters may take some adjusting before they dig in and begin stopping the run effectively. If opposing backs run free for the first few weeks, Williams is one of the main names who may have to clean up in the secondary downfield.
Best Case Scenario
Williams’ best case scenario is that he combines the big play flash of his 2020 campaign with his steadiness and dominance as a cover corner he showed in 2021. If Garrett can pull that off, he’d separate himself among all other cornerback competitors in the ACC to become the conference’s best. Strong performances against some of the conference’s better wideouts like A.T. Perry (Wake Forest), Zay Flowers (Boston College), or Dontayvion Wicks (UVA) could help the Orange battle past some must-win games.
Statistically, Williams doesn’t have high ceilings to burst through to put up career marks. 60 tackles, a few sacks, and 3 or more interceptions would make for an exceptional season from the redshirt-sophomore.
Worst Case Scenario
Williams’ obvious downfall would be injury or an inexplicable slump in his third year, but we can’t assume either of those will happen. What might be a more realistic worst-case is if Williams’ ability to make a difference on the defensive end is wiped out, a la what became of SU’s talented DBs back in 2019.
The Orange roared into that year with high expectations, and a secondary of the aforementioned Cisco, Melifonwu, and Williams was a big part of that. However, SU was brutal against the run and gave up nearly 2,500 yards on the ground, and none of SU’s future NFL defensive backs could prevent a disappointing 5-7 season. Here’s hoping Williams (and Chestnut) avoid that same fate.
Keep an eye out for No. 3 on our list when he’s revealed tomorrow.
Sunday, August 21 – #10 Courtney Jackson
Monday, August 22 – #9 Marlowe Wax
Tuesday, August 23 – #8 Chris Elmore
Wednesday, August 24 – #7 Duce Chestnut
Thursday, August 25 – #6 Matthew Bergeron
Friday, August 26 – #5 Damien Alford
Saturday, August 27 – #4 Garrett Williams
Sunday, August 28 – #3 ?
Monday, August 29 – #2 ?
Tuesday, August 30 – #1 ?